Ronald Javier Uviedo was born on October 7th, 1986 in Calabozo, Venezuela. The young righty, a 6-1, 165 pound stringbean with a cannon for an arm, was just placed on the Pirates 40-man roster. And that's more than most of Piratedom knows about him. But while his Q factor might be low, his K factor isn't.
Uviedo began his career with Seattle when he signed as an 18-year old in 2004. He spent two years in the Venezuelan Summer League as Mariner property.
The young Latino was knocked around his first season, compiling a 2-1 record and 5.81 ERA. But he reversed course in 2005 as a starter, leading the staff in innings with 62, going deeper into games than any other pitcher on the club (5 innings+), and posting the lowest hit rate (6.1/9 innings) on the team.
He finished 4-3 with a 2.76 ERA and 52 strikeouts, and a workmanlike 3:1 K to BB ratio. But Seattle wasn't impressed, and let his contract lapse. The Pirates welcomed him aboard and converted him to a reliever in 2006. Uviedo ended up 2-0 with 11 saves in the VSL, with a 2.02 ERA and 44 Ks in 35-2/3 innings.
The Pirates moved him to short season State College in 2007, where he was 2-0 with 12 saves and a 3.92 ERA. Uviedo kept getting swings and misses there, too, striking out 26 in 20-1/3 innings of work. He also got a cup of joe at Lynchburg early in the year and Hickory towards the end of the season, where he wasn't overwhelming but wasn't overmatched, either.
The 22-year old spent most of the 2008 season with A Hickory, where he made 33 appearances and put together a 3-1 slate with 5 saves and a 3.01 ERA for the Crawdads. He struck out 76 in 71-2/3 innings, with a 5:1 K/BB ratio.
Uviedo finished the season at A Lynchburg, making seven appearances and pitching like Superman. He had an ERA of 2.25, and gave up 5 hits and 5 walks in 16 innings, striking out a dozen batters. Opponents hit .094 off him, and his WHIP was 0.63. A small sample, but a very good one.
Kyle Stark, Pirate Player Development Director, says that he expects Uviedo to start at Lynchburg in 2009. He's back in Venezuela now, pitching in the Winter League. Uviedo has allowed an opponent BA of .319, but the rest of his stats are fine - a 2-1 record, 1.69 ERA, and 12 punch outs in 10-2/3 innings.
Still, it begs the question: Why is he on the 40-man now, when he's probably two full seasons away from reaching the bigs?
"He throws strikes," Huntington told Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com. "As we evaluated the types of players that get selected, those guys who throw strikes are the type of guys that catch a scout's eye or get the interest of someone in the front office. We didn't want to risk losing that."
Not everyone is as sold on Uviedo as Huntington. Matt Pouliot of USA Today's Strike Zone said "Ronald Uviedo may develop into a setup man in three years or so." Still, it shows he's on the national radar, if relatively unknown by Bucco boosters.
The Pirates see a young RHP that has a shot at being their closer in 2011. Uviedo throws a mid-90s heater with a sharp slider and is always around the plate. His one knock is that he's susceptible to the longball, but that's the M.O. of control pitchers. He has a serious knack for missing bats, a rare commodity in the Pirate system.
And even if Pouliot is right and he ends up as the next Tyler Yates, minus control issues, then he's a keeper.
Better safe than sorry. It's nice to see the Pirates forced to put on their thinking cap for a change when it comes to constructing a roster, and having talent deep enough to force hard decisions about A players. And we hope the decisions get harder every year.